How Do You Build a Loyal Customer Base From Scratch? That's What the Las Vegas Raiders Want to Know.

Here's how one number-crunching data wiz is looking carve out an oasis of football fandom in the middle of the desert.
How Do You Build a Loyal Customer Base From Scratch? That's What the Las Vegas Raiders Want to Know.
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When the Oakland Raiders announced they were moving to Las Vegas, on paper it seemed like a no-brainer.

The team identity is that of badass renegades and the fans dress in over-the-top insane costumes -- they’re wild and crazy, just like their brand new home. And the place is swimming in tourist dollars. Jackpot, right?

But scratch beneath the surface and you start to see some challenges. Sure, Vegas has plenty of tourists, but how many stay for more than 48 hours before barely escaping with their checking accounts and brain cells still intact? And that rabid fan base in Oakland? They are pissed off right now.

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The Raiders are moving into a market where more than half of the locals work in tourism, making minimum wage or slightly above. So where is their sustainability? What’s their community? What’s their core? Teams are defined by their fanbases, so who are they?

Enter Shelley Pisarra, SVP of research and insights at Wasserman, a culture-centric agency that works with brand, talent, and properties, who is tasked with finding the answers to these questions. Entrepreneur chatted with the self-described data junky to find out what she is recommending for the Raiders -- and any business -- do to build a new fanbase out of thin air.

Shelley Pisarra, SVP of research and insights at Wasserman

Don’t guess who your customer is.

"There’s a five-step approach to marketing everyone has used forever, but that approach is fed by old information. The consumer world we live in is incredibly present, passionate and is telling brands, 'Find me and talk about what I care about or I’m not listening to you.' So we teamed up with Zoomph to build a proprietary audience profiling and engagement toolkit to do just that. The toolkit takes into account all kinds of data -- social media, U.S. Census reports, and more -- to find out about what people are passionate about and what they are sharing and talking about on their networks."

Don’t ignore your core.

"A brand or person could have 13 million followers, but you may find that you have 500,000 who are really the blood and guts of it all. Those are the ones you care about, those are the ones you want to profile and find who their networks are. We’ve found that there is magic is really digging in and knowing what these people care about and talk about day in and day out."

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Listen to your data.

"Feedback can be a stark look in the mirror for brands -- sometimes you won’t like what you see. I was with a client who did not want to recognize who the bulk of their customers were. They kept saying, 'There can’t be that many of that person.' And I told them, 'You might not want this person as your prototypical customer, but you need to listen to her. She is very powerful for your business.'"

Vegas, baby.

"We looked at the potential audience base in Vegas and we think the Raiders have three groups they need to focus on.

"1. Rabid Raiders fans. All they want to do is talk about sports, it’s down in their DNA, men and women alike. They are pissed off that the Raiders are leaving, but maybe there is some goodwill and you can eventually overcome that.

"2. The locals. You know what they talk about? Tourism, because they all work in the industry. They follow the casinos, the follow the shows, but can they go? No, tickets are out of their financial reach. They might work at the events, but they don’t attend them because they can’t afford it.

"3. The tourists. Oh hell, they’re up for anything. They come in and they want to have fun, go to the hottest clubs and restaurants and be entertained.

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"We dug a little deeper and found four things shared in common between the Raiders fans and the locals: They are proud of being fathers, they love gaming, they love hip-hop music and they love sci-fi.

"Then we laid the third group on top to see what held. The fatherhood part dropped off -- I guess you have that bachelor party, it’s all-about-me-this-weekend thing going on! Sci-fi kind of went away, too. But hip-hop music and gaming/e-sports held.

"So now we know all of these three groups are passionate about hip-hop music and gaming, and now we know where we can show up authentically in their lives. Maybe now we start a Raider gaming competition that we invite the locals to attend. Maybe you have a music festival with Steve Aoki, who is an eSports investor. Now you’re firing on all cylinders for that fanbase. And that helps make a real connection between the fans and the organization."

"The NFL has clearly done their homework. They’ve looked at the financials of this market every which way 'til Sunday. And what we have a piece of the puzzle that can be used to amplify the whole thing. Does your potential fanbase like to go to places or events in big groups? Then your ticket package had better include group rates. Are they very cost conscious? So then you can think about standing room only options.

"I think that by looking at this data, the Raiders will find a greater diversity in the sponsor-verse to approach and will be able to connect in an authentic way to build that loyal fan base every franchise needs to thrive. If you start now, on day one you could have that tailgate packed, standing room only packed and tons of kids wearing your jerseys."

Edition: July 2017

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